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Inside look at high school and Oakland University sports from Oakland Press sports writer Dave Pemberton.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oakland at North Dakota State preview

For my preview in today's paper click here.

The opponent —
North Dakota State (14-5, 8-1) has won six-straight since Oakland defeated the Bison back on Jan. 2 on a late Erik Kangas 3-pointer. NDSU’s 8-1 league start is its best in 35 years, dating back to its days in the North Central Conference. The Bison also earned their first road sweep since joining the Summit League a couple weeks ago. NDSU was 3-6 on the road last year, but is off to a 4-1 start on the road in league play this season.

The Bison have been quite strong at home, going 8-0 and winning their home games by an average of 22.3 points. NDSU lost just two home games last season, the last to IUPUI on Feb. 9, 2008 and the other to Oakland on Jan. 5.

Preseason Player of the Year Ben Woodside has lived up to his billing. He leads the league in scoring (24.2 per game) and is second in assists (6.4 per game). Teammate Brett Winkelmann is second in the league in scoring (19.1 per game) and second in rebounding (7.3 per game).

The two fifth-year seniors are joined in the starting lineup by fellow fifth-year seniors Mike Nelson (11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds) and Lucas Moormann (4.3 points and 4.2 rebounds), and sophomore Michael Tveidt (8.7 points and 3.3 rebounds).

The Bison have been quite healthy this season, with the same starting five in all 19 games and their top three subs off the bench (junior Dejuan Flowers, junior Josh Vaughan and freshman Eric Carlson) have played in all 19 games.

NDSU is currently ranked in the mid-major Top 25, checking in at No. 25. The Bison are the only Summit League team that received votes in the latest poll.

Key matchup — Oakland’s Johnathon Jones vs. North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside. This will be the fourth matchup between two of the Summit League’s elite guards and should be another good one. Jones has averaged 18.3 points and seven assists in three games against the Bision, while Wooside has averaged 13 points and 5.7 assists. North Dakota State’s entire offense runs through Woodside and Jones will certainly play a key role in trying to contain him. Jones can help his cause defensively by attacking Woodside on the other end, while still getting his teammates involved.

Matchup history — Oakland is 4-0 all-time against NDSU and have won the last three on last second shots, including two Kangas 3-pointers. Sophomore Keith Benson led Oakland with 17 points and nine rebounds on Jan. 2, while Drew Maynard added 15 points, Will Hudson had 11 points and six rebounds, Jones finished with 13 points and nine assists and Kangas had seven points in just 25 minutes after he suffered a cramp in his calf. Winkelmann led the Bison with 33 points and 14 rebounds, while Woodside was the only other player in double figures with 14 points and six assists. Michael Tveidt added nine points, while Mike Nelson was held to three points and without a field goal.

The skinny — The Bison have likely been counting down the days until this game after falling victim for the third straight time to a last second shot. Woodside commented after the Jan. 2 game that it was a lot of fun, but he’d like to come out on the winning side once. He will get his chance Thursday. The fans are dying to see NDSU beat Oakland and will likely be out in full force. Oakland’s start in the the hostile environment will be crucial. The Grizzlies need to get the ball inside to Benson and Hudson and try to build a lead or keep it close. If Oakland falls behind, coming back to win in Fargo may be too much to ask.

For all intents and purposes if Oakland has any chance at the regular-season league title it has to win this game. In the end it is all about those few days in March, but a win here and the Grizzlies can still consider themselves in the hunt with five of their last eight at home. Oakland would also improve its chances of earning a No. 2 seed, which comes with the all important off-day at the conference tournament.



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